With its transition from paper to electronic records, the state court system in Maine is entering new, uncharted territory. In drafting rules regarding public access to electronic court records, a critical issue facing the court system is how to go about balancing the privacy interests of the individual and the state’s interest in providing transparency about the court’s operations. Both interests are important in our democracy, and it is critical that we take measures to preserve both. The purpose of writing this essay is to show that Judge Coffin’s judicial philosophy and rights-sensitive balancing process, although the product of a different era, is enduring and, if embraced today by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, would significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of its decision-making process in determining court rules that appropriately balance the rights of the individual against the interests of the state, thus engendering increased public trust and confidence in its decision. Part One, “Framing the Issue,” sets the stage, identifying the key issue to be decided as well as the significant interests at stake. Part Two, “Why Judge Coffin?,” addresses the question as to why Judge Coffin, if he were alive today, would be concerned about the subject of digital court records access. Part Three, “Judicial Balancing,” provides an overview of Judge Coffin’s rights-sensitive judicial balancing approach to decision-making in the “hard cases” involving human rights and civil liberties. Finally, Part Four, “Bringing Judge Coffin into the Conversation,” imagines embracing Judge Coffin’s judicial philosophy and using his rights-sensitive balancing process as a guide in managing the transition to electronic records. It offers a glimpse into how Judge Coffin, if asked, might go about the task of balancing privacy and transparency in the digital era, with a focus on social justice and access to justice issues.
Peter J. Guffin,
Digital Court Records Access: Social Justice and Judicial Balancing,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol72/iss1/4